10.30.2012

Will Hurricane Sandy affect the US presidential election?


The literature says: yes. Now let's see if Ohio get's a disaster declaration...

The Political Economy of FEMA disaster Payments 
(non-paywalled working paper)
THOMAS A. GARRETT and RUSSELL S. SOBEL
ABSTRACT: We find that presidential and congressional influences affect the rate of disaster declaration and the allocation of FEMA disaster expenditures across states. States politically important to the president have a higher rate of disaster declaration by the president, and disaster expenditures are higher in states having congressional representation on FEMA oversight committees. Election year impacts are also found. Our models predict that nearly half of all disaster relief is motivated politically rather than by need. The findings reject a purely altruistic model of FEMA assistance and question the relative effectiveness of government versus private disaster relief.

Myopic Voters and Natural Disaster Policy

ANDREW HEALY & NEIL MALHOTRA
ABSTRACT: Do voters effectively hold elected officials accountable for policy decisions? Using data on natural disasters, government spending, and election returns, we show that voters reward the incumbent presidential party for delivering disaster relief spending, but not for investing in disaster pre- paredness spending. These inconsistencies distort the incentives of public officials, leading the government to underinvest in disaster preparedness, thereby causing substantial public welfare losses. We estimate that $1 spent on preparedness is worth about $15 in terms of the future damage it mitigates. By estimating both the determinants of policy decisions and the consequences of those policies, we provide more complete evidence about citizen competence and government accountability.

BLIND RETROSPECTION ELECTORAL RESPONSESTO DROUGHT, FLU, AND SHARK ATTACKS
Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels
ABSTRACT: Students of democratic politics have long believed that voters punish incumbents for hard times. Governments bear the responsibility for the economy in the modern era, so that replacing incompetent managers with capable alternatives appears to be a well-informed, rational act. However, this vision of a sophisticated retrospective electorate does not bear close examination. We find that voters regularly punish governments for acts of God, including droughts, floods, and shark attacks. As long as responsibility for the event itself (or more commonly, for its amelioration) can somehow be attributed to the government in a story persuasive within the folk culture, the electorate will take out its frustrations on the incumbents and vote for out-parties. Thus, voters in pain are not necessarily irrational, but they are ignorant about both science and politics, and that makes them gullible when ambitious demagogues seek to profit from their misery. Neither conventional understandings of democratic responsiveness nor rational choice interpretations of retrospective voting survive under this interpretation of voting behavior.  


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